Trafficked children let down by the care system

PRESS RELEASE: 5.12.2013

Trafficked children are being badly let down by the care system with many going missing and ending up being sexually or physically abused or working in cannabis farms.

Ann Coffey MP, the chair of the All Party Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, will tell the Commons today (Thursday) that part of the problem was because the authorities view child trafficking as an immigration control and not a child protection issue.

Speaking during a debate on Modern Slavery she said that many trafficked children run away from children’s homes and many are never found again.

Despite government guidance that trafficked children should be placed in foster care or residential care, many are being dumped in Bed and Breakfasts and hostels, which do not give the level of supervision and specialist support needed to prevent them from going missing or being targeted for further exploitation.

Ms Coffey called for a better data collection system, a change in attitudes of professionals and for the children to be photographed and fingerprinted at airports to help the authorities find them when they go missing with their traffickers.

Ms Coffey said: “Many trafficked children often go missing before they are assessed by children’s services and before identification material has been taken.

“That is why I strongly support the recommendation from CEOP and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) that photos, passport numbers, nationality and fingerprints and DNA of children are taken.

“It would mean that if a child turns up months later in a cannabis factory or brothel then they could be identified as trafficked.

“If a child runs away within the first few days without having a record having been made of their identification, then they become an invisible, lost child completely at the mercy of their traffickers.”

She said a lack of knowledge among the police and social workers of the indicators that a child may have been trafficked was a key barrier to keeping children safe.

One of the reasons many non-British trafficked children go missing from care is that they are groomed so effectively by their traffickers that they are so terrified of that might happen to them or their families if they break their bond or tell the authorities, that they run back to their traffickers.

Being exploited for labour is the most common form of exploitation of trafficked children, followed by sexual exploitation, cannabis cultivation, domestic servitude, benefit fraud, street crime and forced marriage. Many of the victims are subject to multiple forms of exploitation.

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